The largest survey of public opinion on climate change ever conducted found that the majority of people believe that the world must react urgently to this global emergency.
Some 64% said they think climate change is an emergency and over half felt that the world, including policymakers, must do everything possible to respond to the threats it poses.
Out of those that acknowledged the climate change issue, educated women led the way in the call for action. Educated men were not far behind, followed by the younger generation. The age group least likely to support climate change policies were the over 60s.
The People’s Climate Vote was carried out by the United Nations Development Programme in collaboration with Oxford University and surveyed 1.2 million people across 50 countries.
The biggest and most far-reaching survey of its kind, questions were distributed via adverts in mobile gaming apps, resulting in a truly random and unique sample of people from all walks of life.
When asked which policies they felt deserved the most urgent attention, respondents identified the conservation of forests and land as the most important. The adoption of solar, wind and renewable power, climate-friendly farming techniques, and investing more in green businesses and jobs were in second, third, and fourth place respectively.
For these four policies, over 50% felt that they should be addressed with priority.
The least popular policy was the importance of plant-based diets which was only supported by 30% of survey respondents. The UNDP notes that the low score doesn’t necessarily mean that people are against it, but rather it could signify indifference and an opportunity for further information.
The aim of the survey was not just to understand how people feel about climate change and environmental threats, but rather to connect the public to policymakers.
The UNDP said it hopes the results will provide the latter with reliable, actionable information on how citizens feel about the world around them. It should also give guidance to governments on what their electorate expects in terms of response to environmental and climate issues.
Achim Steiner, Administrator of the UNDP said the survey paves the way for people’s voices to be heard when it comes to addressing the crisis.
“The survey brings the voice of the people to the forefront of the climate debate. It signals ways in which countries can move forward with public support as we work together to tackle this enormous challenge.”
Survey participants were asked for their opinions on six different areas; energy, economy, transportation, farms, and food, protecting people, and nature. The results were then analysed based on country, age, gender, education level, and whether the respondent comes from a high, middle, or lower income state, or developing country or State.
Data was processed by the University of Oxford which created estimates of public opinion that said it is representative of the overall population.
But in Europe, the percentage of those who believe the situation is worse, and action must be taken sooner is higher than the global score. Over 70% of Europeans felt it was an emergency and that their governments should act fast.
In terms of policies that should be addressed, almost three quarters want their governments to focus on forests, land, ocean, and waterways. The third most demanded policy relates to the adoption of renewable energy, and the fourth was that of conserving nature to protect people’s livelihoods.
The top 10 most wanted policies from European respondents all received more than 55% support, the highest figures in the survey. This means that EU citizens believe that their governments are not doing enough to fight climate change, and they need to take steps to do so immediately.